The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act would allow states to
drug test recipients they have determined are likely to be using illegal
substances. This proposed policy is a misguided and punitive waste of
resources, and would place unnecessary financial burden on taxpayers
and state and federal budgets in order to enact an ineffective policy.
Drug-testing is an expensive and ineffective method of identifying
people wi th substance abuse problems. Drug tests ident i fy drug usage,
not substance-abuse problems, and most positive tests identify casual
marijuana users, rather than individuals struggling wi th addiction. I f
the goal is to ensure that those wi th substance abuse and drug problems are receiving the care and support they need, then there is a better way to do i t then threatening ineligibility for unemployment benefits.
The cost per " f ind" f rom drug testing could be anywhere f rom $500 to
thousands of dollars. The average cost of a drug test is $42, not
including the cost of administrative functions and conducting an
additional test to guard against false positives, which are common.
Claims that testing will save money are bui l t upon the assumption that
the tests will return a high number of positive results. However, this is
not the case. Several studies, including a repor t f rom the National
Inst i tute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, found that there is no
significant difference in the rate of illegal-drug use by welfare
applicants and other people. A second study found that 70% of illegaldrug users between the age of 18 and 49 are employed full time.
One can safely assume that unemployed individuals seeking benefits
use drugs at the same rate as the general population, which means that an overwhelming major i ty of tests return negative results and simply
waste t ime and money in the process.
The conclusion that drug testing is not an efficient way of identifying
individuals wi th substance abuse problems is not speculative. Under a
new Florida law, those applying for welfare benefits are required to
take a drug test at thei r own expense. I f an applicant passes the test
then he or she is then eligible for benefits and the state will reimburse
the cost of the test. I f the test is failed, the applicant is not eligible for
benefits for a year.
This law was suspended due to an injunction issued by a federal judge,
but various initial reports showed that the overwhelming major i ty of
those who took the test passed. Therefore the high reimbursement
costs to the applicants who passed the test will render any financial
savings generated by denying a handful of applicants thei r welfare
benefits non-existent or negligible.
The provision in this legislation to allow drug testing for unemployment
insurance recipients seeks to repeat this failed policy. It is punitive in
nature and does not target the root causes of drug problems nor seek
in any way to provide rehabilitation assistance to those wi th these
For this reason I am urging the Committee to accept the amendment
proposed by Ms. Moore, Mr . Davis and myself, to remove this provision
f rom the legislation. During this di f f icul t financial time, we should not
be implementing ineffective policies that we know waste money. We
should instead target our l imi ted resources to job creation and our
social safety net, where we know i t makes a wor ld of difference to
those who need it.
Thank you and I urge you to accept this amendment.